Saturday 29 June 2013

ADVERT: Panasonic TZ40 (YB)

I am going to be posting some video's you might be interested in from starting with this Panasonic TZ40 video...

Thursday 27 June 2013

REVIEW: Horrible Histories Vile Villains & Colour And Learn Sport (YB)

I was asked if I would like to do a review with BrainBox games and I was very pleased to take part. I was sent a Horrible Histories Vile Villains game and a Colour And Learn sport colouring book suited to my sons age...

My son, David, is 10 years old and I knew he would love helping with this review. We regularly play board games - we have a huge stack of them - so I knew this review would fit perfectly on my blog.

Firstly, the Colour And Learn sport colouring book...

My son is really into sport, so I knew he would like this. He's not very patient when colouring in though as he doesn't have the longest attention span ever, but he does like to finish things, even if it takes him a lot longer than it maybe would other kids.

As a parent, what I like about this colouring book, is that it's not just about colouring. For each sport, there are a number of facts about that sport to go with it, so it's quite educational too. I found that it encouraged my son to learn a little about the sport as well as have fun colouring in the pictures. So far, David has coloured 'The Hammer' and 'Diving' pages...

He has started colouring in several others too, but not finished them yet. I asked David what he liked about the Colour And Learn Sport colouring book and he said: "You can colour it in and then learn lots of different facts about the sport your coloured in."

I then asked him did he feel he had learnt much from the pages and he said: "Lots of stuff about them that I didn't already know."

I think David will get a lot more enjoyment out of this yet as it has lots of pages, so lots of fun colouring and learning to be had yet.

Next, the Horrible History Vile Villains board game...

This game is for 1 or more players aged 8+ (or 8-108 if you read the box :P ). It contains 55 illustrated cards, a rules card, a timer and an 8-sided die.

The game is really quick and simple. Me, hubby (Paul) and David had a lot of fun playing this.

Starting with the youngest player, so in our case, David, you take a card from the front and you can look at it for as long as the timer takes to become empty. Then you pass it to the next player, you roll the die and the other person asks you the question corresponding to the number you rolled. The questions are related to either the pictures or the facts on the card. When you get the question right, you get to keep the card. Otherwise, it goes back into the pile.

The game takes 10 minutes and the person who has won the most cards at the end of the 10 minutes wins the game.

As with the colouring book, this game is great fun, but also educational. You learn a lot of fun facts about historical figures, no matter what your age!

I really enjoyed the game. It's fast, fun and I love the facts. I like all things horrific, so the dastardly facts amused me no end.

I asked Paul what he thought and he said: "I quite enjoyed the game, it was interesting learning about all these gruesome people and events. It was nice that any age people can play together without children being at a big disadvantage. It's nice that the cards were good sized and solid - thin cardboard cards tend to end up getting bent and lost easily, these look much more durable. I'm worried that after playing it a few times we'll all know all the answers, but I suppose that's a possibility with any game involving question cards. It might've been better if you had to answer, say, 3 questions about each card and you win it if you get 2 out of 3. The 8 sided dice seemed to favour certain numbers (4 or 5 came out more often than anything else)."

I asked David what he liked and didn't like about the game and he said: "I didn't not like anything. I liked that you were on a timer and you had to read as much as you can and remember as much as you can so you can answer the question. Some of the facts were hard to understand, and some of them were funny. The questions were good and made me think. I'd like to try other ones like it because they look good. I think my friends would like playing it too."

Sunday 23 June 2013

FUN & FROLICS: Gardening Makes For Great Family Time! (YB)

This post is an entry for BritMums’ #KidsGrowWild Challenge

We are all very into our gardening, so when I saw the #KidsGrowWild challenge, I just knew my son would want to take part.

He kind of 'caught' his greenfingers from us and plants things anyway, so this seemed perfect.

I was sent a gardening tool kit for David containing gardening gloves, trowel, gardening fork, watering can, seeds and plant markers.

Here's David planting some of his seeds from the kit...

He preferred to plant them in pots rather than grow them in an area of the garden as we get a lot of slugs eating the plants. That plus the cats from various neighbours seem to like to squash plants!

A few years ago, we decided we wanted to grow our own veg for a couple of reasons - to save money, to have fresh veg without the pesticides and just as a hobby. David wanted to grow some stuff too, so we started to introduce him to it too. That, plus his school often gets them growing their own stuff too.

Most recently, I purchased a pirate treasure growing kit from Dobbies for David which is what he has been growing as you can see in the photo's below...

We find gardening is a great way to get us actively having fun together as a family as well.

I asked David what he likes about growing stuff and he said: "I like that you can see how the plants look when they are fully grown and its a fun activity that you can do while you've got nothing else to do."

I asked him what are his favourite things to grow and he said: "Flowers and fun plants and fruit."

He's still growing his stuff, some of the things he'd already started growing are coming along really nice and he really does enjoy it. I think gardening is something kids of all ages can learn and enjoy and it's a good hobby for them to take with them into adulthood as it's something that never grows old.

REVIEW: Pom-Bear Zoo Crisps (YB)

I received some of the new Pom-Bear Zoo crisps to review...

If you love Pom-Bear crisps, then you'll love the new Pom-Bear Zoo crisps. They are cheesy flavoured snacks in the shapes of zoo animals. OK, maybe they are aimed at kids, but adults have got to love the cuteness too! I know I do!

We all tried them out (that's me, hubby and our 10 year old son, David). I think they are very nice, but could do with just a little more flavouring - I love overly flavoursome crisps, but that might just be me. They are tasty though and crunchy. It's fun even as an adult to guess the animals :P

Paul's (hubby) verdict was:
"They smell good and cheesy - not my favourite flavour. The animals are not as clear in real life or as the pictures on the packet. Some are mysterious! They are nice and crispy - I like crispy stuff. They had plenty of flavour."

David's verdict was:
"They're yummy but I wish they were a different flavour like sweet chilli or roast chicken or ready salted. The shapes were good, I liked guessing the animals. I like the elephant the best! They're scrumdiddlyumptious!"

Pom-Bear Zoo are available from June 2013 and have an RRP of £1.59 for a multipack of 6. Each pack contains less than 100 calories, they are gluten free, suitable for vegetarians and free from artificial colours and preservatives.

Friday 21 June 2013

RECIPE: Spaghetti & Meatballs With Spicy Tomato Sauce (YB)

This post is an entry for BritMums’ Hungry to Happy Challenge sponsored by Richmond Mini Meatballs:

My quick and easy recipe is for spaghetti with Richmond Mini Meatballs and my home made spicy tomato sauce. It serves four people. Preparation & cooking time is approx. 15-20 minutes.

12 fresh, ripe tomatoes
140g concentrated tomato puree
2 small onions, chopped roughly
3 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
25g fresh, chopped basil
4-6 chopped green birds eye chillies (seeds in if you like it super-spicy or removed if not)
Bag 40 Richmond mini meatballs
280g dried spaghetti

For the sauce:
- Get a pan of boiled water
- Lightly score the tomatoes into quarters and place them into the water for a few minutes
- Remove the tomatoes from the water and the peel should come off them with ease
- Put the peeled tomatoes into a food processor
- Add the onions, garlic, chillies, basil and tomato puree to the processor
- Whizz it all together on a high setting until the sauce becomes purified

Put the Richmond mini meatballs in the oven on gas mark 4 and cook for 10 minutes.
At the same time, place the spaghetti into a pan of boiling water and cook for 10 minutes.
In the last few minutes of cooking the meatballs and spaghetti, put the sauce into a pan and warm gently on a medium heat.

Lay the spaghetti on the plate, leaving a well in the middle. Put the meatballs and sauce into the well and serve.

Wednesday 19 June 2013

TRAVEL: Sun & Sangria In Barcelona (YB)

Me & Paul went to Barcelona, Spain thanks to a fabulous win I had with Krave & Channel 4/E4 on Facebook back in November 2012. Oh, how I love my hobby - this is one of the many reasons I love comping!

This was only my second ever trip abroad (the first being Venice back in February) so it was super exciting to me. Well, holidays are to everyone, but it felt super-special to me. Here's what we got up to...

DAY 1 - 14th June
We set off from home at around 4.50am to head to Liverpool John Lennon airport in time for check-in at 5.05am ready for our flight with Easyjet at 7.05am.

After check-in and going through security, we had breakfast at Subway and a coffee at Go before heading to gate 1 to board our plane.

The flight was comfortable, though Easyjet really like to try and sell you stuff - when it's not food and drink, it's perfumes & aftershaves, teddy bears or even scratchcards! They don't even give you a free drink on board! Not even a glass of water! It's all sell, sell, sell with them.

We arrived 2 hours later - 10.25am local time. We met our taxi driver in the arrivals area as we had transfers booked and included. He was very polite and helpful. It took about 30 minutes from the airport to our hotel - H10 Catalunya Plaza in the heart of Barcelona. Check in was quick and easy and we had a nice cup of coffee while we unpacked and planned our 1st day.

H10 Catalunya Plaza where we stayed
After we were all unpacked, we went for a walk along La Rambla to see the many stalls and eateries and of course, the street entertainers. We continued along to Port Vell and walked around it before returning to La Rambla.

We had a rather late lunch at Pans & Co - I had a 'pit de pollastre' baguette while Paul had the vegetarian option of the 'grec' baguette and we shared some 'patates frigides' and 'patates bravas' and we got a cola each.

We had a well earned rest back at our hotel then until tea time. After a walk around nearby our hotel and looking at several café and restaurant menus, we chose to dine at Bracafé around the corner from our hotel on Passeig de Gràcia.

We had delicious tapas and I had roast chicken and vegetables (courgette, aubergine, asparagus and tomato) - which sounded more exotic in Spanish! Paul had a vegetarian rice dish - which also sounded more exotic in Spanish! I had a glass of white wine and Paul had sangria. The food was delicious, especially the tapas. Was all presented nicely and cooked well, so it looked both appetising and tasted delicious - buenísimo!

The tapas

My roast chicken & vegetables

Paul's vegetarian rice dish
We then went back to the hotel for the night after a look at the waterfalls near our hotel.

Paul standing by the fountains opposite our hotel
DAY 2 - 15th June
We got up at around 7am so we had time to go for breakfast before heading to our tour departure place. Breakfast was at the hotel, sadly they didn't have anything I liked :( What looked like Coco Pops, tasted nothing of the sort and I didn't like them. I ordered some breakfast off the menu (cooked breakfast), but again I was not impressed. The bacon was crispy and the fried egg was crispy on the bottom and barely cooked on the top!

We headed off towards where our tour started, but we were running late and then we couldn't find it either, so in the end we had to give up :( We decided to go on our own tour instead....

Firstly, we went to La Sagrada Familia, we didn't go inside, but we took plenty of photo's. There was a quaint little park opposite where we sat for quite some time, enjoying the sunshine, watching the birds and generally enjoying the greenery and scenery.

La Sagrada Familia

The park opposite La Sagrada Familia
We then went to see and take a photo of La Pedrera (Casa Milà).

La Pedrera
Then we stopped at a rather unusual place - a McCafé on Passeig de Gràcia - a part of a McDonalds that seems so much nicer and more sophisticated to the ones we have at home. I had a delicious slice of tiramisu and a yummy Frappe de Moka Xocolate while Paul just had a cappuccino.

My tasty tiramisu & frappe
Next we went to see and photo Casa Batlló which is a peculiar sight as it does not fit in with the buildings surrounding it at all.

Casa Batlló
We then just had a walk around, taking in the culture of Barcelona on the streets before grabbing some churros to take away from Bracafé on Carera de d'Ausiàs Marc which we sat eating in the little park bit opposite.

We then went back to the hotel for a brief break from the sun and to rest our feet for a little while.

Next, we took our first trip on the Metro (underground train) which cost just €13.40 each for 2 days unlimited travel and we wished we had thought of it earlier.

The Metro train
We went to Parc Güell. It's a beautiful gigantic park-like area. We walked to the top and got some stunning views across Barcelona. We stopped in the picnic area, just for a sit down and there was a man there playing his guitar, some delightfully calming and peaceful songs. He was greeted by applause after each song. It was quite a walk to the top, but very worthwhile. We picked up a few souvenirs and gifts on the way back.

We also stopped at the Store Café on Travessera de Dalt for our tea. I had hamburger, chips and salad (which was something like hamberguesa, patates frigides é salade in Spanish). Paul had 'cuatro cuesta' - four cheese pizza. We both had a glass of sangria. We were shocked when the bill came though as the sangria cost a whopping €7 each! Overall, the food was extremely pricey too considering its sub-standard quality. My burger & chips cost a whopping €13.50 while Paul's pizza cost €9. I was overly impressed by the food, drink or service here. My burger was gristly, fatty, burnt around the edges and had bits of bone or something else inedible in it!

Eeek! This one glass cost €7
We then took the metro back to Catalunya and went back to the hotel for the night as we were totally worn out.

DAY 3 - 16th June
We got up early with the hope that we could fill in the day at Montjuïc. It didn't really go as we had planned, but we had a fantastic day overall.

We took a photo of Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya before heading off to the L'Anella Olimpica & Estadi Olimpic where we took a few photo's. There was a race of some sort taking place around the Olympic stadium. The stadium is there from when the Olympics were held in Barcelona in 1992.

The Estadi Olimpic (side view)

The Estadi Olimpic (front view)

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya
Afterwards, we visited the very beautiful Jardins de Joan Maragall and took in the beautiful scenery and took some more photo's.

We then went for lunch. Just a sandwich each today and a slush as it was exceedingly hot. The plan was to go to Castell de Montjuïc next but it was an extremely hot time of day and we were both so overwhelmed by the heat we decided to give it a miss. So we headed back to the hotel for a brief break and a cuppa.

Next, we went past the Arc De Triomfe to Parc de la Ciutedella. A gigantic park that plays host to the Parlament de Catalunya, as well as the gorgeous Cascada. We

The cascada

Paul at the cascada

The Arc de Triomf
Not content with our busy day, we returned to the hotel briefly to get suitable beach footwear and headed off to Platja de la Barceloneta - i.e. the beach. We sat at the beach for a while. Then we passed by the huge bustling market alongside the beach, a bizarre sight at gone 9pm.

Us on the beach
Then we headed back to the Barceloneta Metro station to head to Espanya Metro station to re-visit the La Font Màgica during it's operational hours of 9.30-11.30pm (we visited that morning when we went to Montjuïc too) to see it's spectacular display of water flow, music and lighting.

Officially knackered, we then headed back to the hotel for our final night of the holiday.

DAY 4 - 17th June
We had to check out of the hotel by 12pm on the last day, so we had a lie in and then headed off for a breakfast before packing everything up and getting ready for the day ahead.

We went for another walk along La Rambla, and sat in the park between La Rambla and Port Vell for a little while.

Then we carried on to Port Vell where we sat enjoying the breeze for a while. It wasn't just the ships we caught sailing by... Now before I continue, bear in mind this was a very busy tourist area with lots of people sitting on the benches, on the steps and walking or cycling by regularly, not just adults but children too... Well, a couple sitting on a bench further along seemed to be quite openly and publicly doing more than just sitting!! I'm sure you can figure out what I mean :D I'm not really sure people believed what they were seeing. People were even stopping and staring at them and it didn't seem to deter them. Though they disappeared soon after the port police passed by! Now, in Spain, you can be used to seeing people being publicly affectionate (not like us rigid English people) - i.e. hugging and kissing, but not quite this much "affection" is usually on display!

Anyway, we then walked back along La Rambla to near our hotel where our transfer would be waiting to take us to the airport. It was supposed to collect us at 5.40pm local time, but was gone 6pm local time, but it didn't matter (even if slightly annoying) as check-in was not until 7.45pm local time. Check in was quick and easy and so was going through security. Our plane was due to depart at 9.45pm local time, but was running late and didn't take off until 10.10pm local time. Despite taking off late, we arrived 5 minutes ahead of the scheduled arrival time of 11.20pm (UK time).

We then got a taxi home and then it finally hit that the holiday was over. It was fantastic and we both had a great time. It was really nice to see David again before school on Tuesday morning. I missed him loads!